Silent Cal, Social Media, & Conversation (redux)

When my blog was incredibly young nearly two years ago, I posted an article I entitled, “Silent Cal, Social Media, & Conversation.”  Its timely message has become more and more important with each passing year. We all spend so much time using social media that I do wonder when the day will come when we ourselves will be the media. Google Glass is going to be making media part of our fashion, so it will be always on, and always on us. That can only lead to us, ourselves, our bodies, our beings actually one day becoming the device. What will then happen with social conventions such as face to face conversations? Once again, here is the original post, “Silent Cal, Social Media, & Conversation.”

Former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge knew how to keep his cool.  He was so tight lipped that people dubbed him ‘Silent Cal.’  As one story goes, during a black tie affair at the White House, one lady guest said to the president, “I bet I can get you to say more than two words this evening.”  Without missing a beat, the president turned his head and wryly replied, “You lose.”

It got me thinking.  Would Silent Cal have loved today’s social media?  You can say so much without saying anything at all.

A friend posted the other day that she was in a room with many other people, but it was eerily quiet as each one had their own device where they played, tweeted, communicated, and shared information with someone, somewhere that may or may not have been in that room.

So what is becoming of conversation – I mean real face to face conversation.  What will real conversation be like in twenty years?  How is this affecting our kids who are growing up in social media, not social face-to-face conversation.

Being an introvert, I’ve never been a great conversationalist.  Silent Cal and I would have gotten along real well.  But, I understand that conversation is important.  Kids need to learn how to appropriately and effectively communicate with others when it’s not all lol, rotflol, and all these other abbreviations which I frequently misunderstand.

Let’s start with family dinner.  How many families continue to have family dinners with real conversation?  How many dinners take place when the TV is blaring, the cell phones are clicking, or the iPADs are being swiped (I don’t mean stolen)?

A former colleague of mine once said that children need to hear and take part in adult conversation, so they can learn new words in grown-up contexts.  Her contention was that children need to be exposed to ideas, current events, and philosophies which they aren’t going to get on their own or on some social media device.  I completely agree with her.  Children need to learn how to listen, how to think, and then how to speak when it is appropriate.  They need to try out new words and be corrected when their understanding isn’t quite developed.  They need to talk about and explore topics which may be over their heads.  They need to ask questions and ponder whether the answers make sense.  All of this happens in conversation.  It doesn’t happen by texting your friend about Hollywood gossip 500 times a month.

As I teach my students, I continually remember not to “dumb down” a lesson just because they may not understand a word.  I say every sentence the way I would if I was talking to an adult, and then I’ll clarify and re-explain something in different words if necessary.

But I just can’t help but wonder what our social media world will mean to our students twenty years from now.

Will everyone be living in the realm of Silent Cal with a communication gadget strapped to their arms?

Will we still be able to sit at a dinner table and converse with one another without interruption?  I hope so.


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